DIY Wire Closet System

Updating your closet may seem like a chore. But with the right tools, it can turn into a simple task that takes only an afternoon. We'll show you how to choose and install the right shelf storage system for your space.

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Help a small closet store more by installing a wire closet system. Rubber-coated wire shelving is available from a variety of retailers and manufacturers, and it can help you make the most of your space. Plus, installing a closet system is super easy. All it takes is an afternoon and a few common tools and supplies. 

Do This, Not That: Closet Storage Edition

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What You Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Online design tool (we used the online planning tool for the Elfa shelving system from The Container Store)
  • Printer
  • Closet system (including racks, standards, brackets, shelves, glide mechanisms, drawers, clothing rods, and all related hardware)
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Wall anchors
  • Rubber mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Shelf liners
  • Protective end pieces

Before You Begin: Helpful Tips

Keep it safe. Before installing shelves, check with a professional electrician and plumber to be sure you won't be drilling into electrical wires, ductwork, or plumbing components.

Cover up. If your closet has tile or wood floors, you might wish to cover them with a drop cloth to prevent damage.

Find a friend. For safety reasons, it's best to have a partner present to help install long shelves and hold your step stool when working up high.

Buy extra pieces. If plans change, you'll have parts on hand. If not, you can easily return them.

Assess your needs. Most closet systems use closet-gauge wire shelving, but heavier-duty garage systems are also available. Unless you're storing sports equipment or other particularly heavy items, a closet-gauge system will generally fill the bill.

Check in. If your local hardware store won't cut your shelving to size for a nominal fee, consider investing in a bolt cutter for safe, clean cuts.

Cut it short. When trimming shelves, cut a half-inch shorter than the space they'll occupy. This prevents scratched walls and makes it easier to fit shelves into wall brackets.

Step 1: Measure and Lay Out

To start, measure your closet. Write down all relevant dimensions, including depth, width, door swing, and light placement. Use an online design tool to create a closet layout. Print the layout, then purchase items from the corresponding list. Before you begin installing, hang the layout on your closet door frame for reference. Unwrap all materials, and organize them by the wall where they'll reside.

Step 2: Attach the Top Rack

Using a level, place the top track or rack and mark holes with a pencil. Drill holes, then insert anchors into holes that don't line up with studs. Tap into the wall with a rubber mallet. With a drill, hang the track or rack, leaving screws a bit loose. Manually tighten screws with a screwdriver to prevent damaging the track.

Step 3: Attach Standards

Next, hang standards from top bracket. Some systems will require hardware (the one shown here does not). Group standards together and insert shelf brackets into the standards. Once brackets are inserted, slide standards to their approximate position on the track, using provided spacers if needed.

Step 4: Install and Adjust Shelves

Install smaller shelves first, then longer and deeper ones. Ventilated shelves have a top and bottom; the middle support wires are connected to the bottom of the shelf. To install, press shelves down and back into brackets. You should hear shelves lock into place. To adjust shelves, start from the bottom, repositioning them for adequate clearance as you go up. Smaller shelves can be lifted up and out of standards by the brackets, while larger shelves will need to be removed from brackets before repositioning. Refer to your printed layout for optimal storage space.

Step 5: Add Shelf Liners and Drawers

To prevent wire marks on clothing and to prevent small items from falling through slats, cover shelves with plastic shelf liners. To add drawers, affix the lowest glide mechanism first, then follow manufacturer instructions to add brackets. For drawers that share a center bracket, be sure to use a center bracket cover. Drop baskets into drawer frames.

Step 6: Add End Pieces and Clothing Rods

For a finished look, cap shelves and cover exposed brackets with protective end pieces. Follow manufacturer instructions for installing clothing rods, adding support for rods that span longer than 36 inches. 

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